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Olowokandi Signs With Clippers

Just days after being let out of his contract in the Italian League, 1998 No. 1 draft choice Michael Olowokandi has signed with the Los Angeles Clippers.

As the first pick in the draft, Olowokandi Friday signed a three-year, $8.44 million contract, the richest among 1999 rookies under the NBA's new collective bargaining agreement. The deal also includes a club option for a fourth season.

Olowokandi did not impress his first employer, Kinder Bologna, and was released from his contract Monday, more than two weeks prematurely. He arrived in Los Angeles Friday, passed his physical and signed with the Clippers.

Olokowandi will participate in Saturday's shootaround before meeting the media at 3 p.m. EDT.

Just two days before NBA players and owners agreed to a labor settlement Jan. 7, Olowokandi signed a deal with Kinder that reportedly would have paid him at least $1 million and as much as $3 million if he spent the entire season in Italy.

According to European scouts, the poorly conditioned Olowokandi was not met with rave reviews, playing ineffectively from the start. In an 84-67 victory over Verona, the Pacific University product was scoreless with two rebounds and four fouls in five minutes off the bench.

The second consecutive center selected first overall, Olowokandi has only been playing basketball since 1993. He was born in Nigeria and raised in England, where he participated in volleyball, soccer and track.

Sporting a 7-5 wingspan, Olowokandi averaged 22.2 points and 11.2 rebounds during his senior season at Pacific, placing 10th in the nation in scoring and fifth in rebounds. He also blocked 92 shots and finished as the school's all-time leader with 157.

The Clippers already signed their other first-round pick, forward Brian Skinner, but Olowokandi gives them a low-post presence in an enormous frontcourt that includes 7-3 Keith Closs, 7-2 Stojko Vrankovic and 6-11 Lorenzen Wright.

© 1999 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved

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